Big names like HaHa Clinton-Dix and Darqueze Dennard were still on the board, so it was no surprise that general manager Phil Emery pulled the trigger on a lesser-known player. Despite locking up cornerbacks Tim Jennings with a four-year deal and Charles Tillman with a single-year contract, the Chicago front office decided to go with another corner and opt not to improve the arguably below-average safety tandem they currently have starting this season.
The Bears picked Kyle Fuller with pick No. 14, a 6-foot, 190-pound corner out of Virginia Tech. Fuller, 22, attended Mount Saint Joseph High School and ran a 4.49-second 40-yard dash with a 38.5-inch vertical leap. Many NFL analysts compared him to the Bears' Tillman, which will hopefully provide a seamless transition when the new prospect jumps in Peanut's cleats when the 12-year Bear's one-year deal expires. Even ESPN analyst Jon Gruden claimed Fuller was "his favorite corner in the draft" and NFL analyst Mike Mayock believed he was the "most NFL-ready cornerback."
The Baltimore native was one of the Hokies' four captains in 2013 and was a Second-Team All-American, a first-team All-ACC selection by the coaches and third-team All-ACC selection by ACSMA. He started eight of his nine games in 2013 and had 24 tackles with two interceptions and 10 passes defended. He made an impact early in the season with an interception, four tackles and two passes defended against Alabama in the season opener.
Fuller doesn't have the star power of the other defensive backs in the draft, but he has great athleticism and versatility, traits that will prove crucial for the Bears defense as the unit progresses in different directions with the new building blocks coming in and the future ones yet to be picked. He also has good size and instincts to go with a mostly healthy, durable college career. His confidence compliments his excellent jamming and pass-coverage skills, but his strength is questionable, highlighted by his inability to press more than 12 reps at the NFL Combine.
Despite his versatility at corner, the Virginia Tech talent doesn't have any safety experience from college, potentially taking that option off the table. However, "I can't" is not in the mindset of this rookie.
“I haven’t actually played safety," Fuller said, via CBS Chicago. "Some of the things we did at Virginia Tech was some safety stuff. But being able to line up and my skill set, as far as being able to play safety, I’m tough, physical, can come up and tackle. I haven’t played it, but I played corner and nickel, and I feel like I can do that."
Kyle isn't the only Fuller to play professional football; his older brothers Vincent and Corey were drafted out of Virginia Tech too. Vincent was selected in 2005 by the Titans and is currently a free agent while Corey was picked in 2013 and still plays for the Lions. The family football genetics don't end with Kyle; his younger brother Kendall played with him on the same Virginia Tech team.
Fuller will provide depth to the position and initially contribute to some defensive and special-teams packages. After all, Tillman did miss significant time with injuries in 2013. It will be a long training camp and season before we completely understand what the immediate future holds for the newest Bear, but the distant future appears bright.
"I'm definitely looking forward to coming in and learning from those guys," Fuller said.